Frustrated SF Supervisor Ronen wants affordable housing projects sped up
Publication: San Francisco Chronicle
Author: Dominic Fracassa and J.K. Dineen
The speed with which affordable housing projects are approved in San Francisco has increased in recent years, especially since 2017 when Planning Director John Rahaim issued a directive that developments with more than 30 percent below-market-rate units be given priority.
But as Supervisor Hillary Ronen has discovered, a fast approval doesn’t necessarily translate to a rapid construction start.
Ronen has watched with increasing frustration as seven affordable developments in her district, totaling 733 units, have been stalled for more than a year after approvals. Some of that has to do with rising construction costs and the complexities of financing, but part of the blame, Ronen said, can be attributed to bureaucratic foot-dragging.
To help cut through red tape, Ronen has introduced legislation that orders five departments — Planning, Building Inspection, Public Works, Fire and the Mayor’s Office on Disability — to put affordable projects at the front of the line.
“Whatever they are doing they have to put that down and focus on the affordable project,” Ronen said. “That, quite frankly, is not happening now.”
In addition, each of the five departments will appoint a specific manager to oversee affordable projects.
“Planning has been better in speeding up pre-entitlements. But we are not seeing that focus post-entitlement,” she said, regarding the approval process. “Of the seven approved projects in the Mission, not a single one has broken ground. I’m tired of it.”
— J.K. Dineen
Harassment training: Board of Supervisors President London Breed plans to introduce legislation Tuesday to significantly expand harassment- and discrimination-prevention training for San Francisco’s city employees.
Currently, workplace-harassment training is required only for commissioners, elected officials, supervisors and other employees in managerial roles. To date, about 11,800 city workers have undergone the training — just over a third of the city’s total workforce.
Breed’s bill would require all of the city’s workers to undergo the training in an effort to ensure that the roughly 34,000 city employees learn how to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination, and what to do if they see it or are informed about it happening.
“It is all of our collective responsibility to prevent, recognize, report and root out workplace harassment,” Breed said in a statement. “By expanding our harassment training requirements to cover all city employees and increasing transparency and accountability in reporting these claims, we will be making it clear — no city employee should ever be subjected to harassment, retaliation or fear speaking up.”
The legislation, which Breed’s office wrote with input from the Department on the Status of Women and the Commission on the Status of Women, would also provide victims of harassment or discrimination more time to report the incident. The city’s current policy provides a 180-day window for reporting harassment claims. The bill would extend that timeline to one year from the date of the last incident.
Breed’s bill also seeks to make more information public about harassment claims and settlements within city government by requiring the Department of Human Resources to prepare quarterly reports of harassment cases and how they were resolved by the city attorney’s office.
According to a February report from the department, the city expects to receive 81 sexual harassment complaints in the 2017-18 fiscal year — a 65 percent jump in the number of complaints compared with the previous fiscal year. The department attributed the rise not to an increase in sexual-harassment incidents, but rather to a growing awareness among city employees about their rights and an increased understanding among supervisors and managers about their duties to report complaints.
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